Over Donner Pass, I drove right past the chain stations just as they let up control over the summit. It was a slushy, unpleasant drive bordered on all side by semi trucks, but the view as I began to come down into the California side of the Sierra Nevada made it worth it.
This was not nearly as bad as the drive through Wyoming. At no point did I fear getting stuck in the pass, and the trucks were all well-behaved. How I managed to drive past chain control is still a mystery to me.
Trees crept in, bit by bit, emerging from drifts of snow several feet high. Finally, there were great swathes of them, and less of the snow. When I pulled off in Auburn for a latte and a restroom break, it was warm, and some bleary-eyed college boy hit on me, maundering on philosophically about the difference between ethics and morals. I sauntered outside as a bunch of locals eyed my slush-and-salt-splattered truck warily, looked up how long it was to Oakland, and hit the road again.
On down, on further in, down into the Bay Area. Berkeley flashed past, finally, and the weather shifted slowly between sunny and partly cloudy, flickering shadows over the waters of the Bay and the greenery that was everywhere. Andrew Eldritch played with slow, pretentious grandeur, and I hummed along. Traffic was dodged around, drivers were intimidated, and I made it into Oakland.
In time for a marathon, apparently. I navigated my way through the poorly-arranged city to the first destination: disposition of something I didn't trust to the hotel room. But first, there was parking to find in a residential hill.
It was so damn good to see my friend, to drag my ass on up the slope. It was one of the most miserable slogs I've had in a while. The contents of the bag dragged at my arm. If it had been just a backpack, it might have been better.
There was a strange sort of zen on the climb, though. Adam's Point is covered with a mix of apartment buildings of various generations and stately Mission-style houses with arched windows and jungle plants lining low, ironwork-covered walls. After making it cross country and through the pass, this was something I could do. This wasn't getting stuck in a city, or a pass, or in Salt Lake City for a night.
The height of a hill doesn't tend to change much. That's a comfort.
The Bay Area, for those who've not had the pleasure of being there, is a place where large portions of the metropolitan area exist on mostly vertical planes. In this case, my destination was on top of a steep slope, and the only parking for my truck was on a street running along the bottom. I shrugged, shouldered my bags, and started the climb upwards.
One bag, slung over my shoulders, had two laptops, tools, and a variety of other things. The other was weighed down with approximately 90lb of metal, and had no strap for swinging over either shoulder.
Sweat-streaked, at the top of the hill, I decided that I was a fucking moron who needed to be at the gym more often. The bag dragged heavy in my hand as I slumped up to the front door of the apartment building.
My friend emerged, took in my appearance, and took the bag.
"This is heavy."
No shit, Sherlock.
With that taken care of, I departed for Alameda, where the Saint George's Distillery rises in hangar one of the old naval base. A short time later, I was the proud owner of a bottle of absinthe, a bottle of framboise, a bottle of coffee liqueur, and a bottle of scotch for my helpful friend.
Loaded with luggage, aching from the climb, and buzzing from three lattes, I rolled into my hotel in downtown San Francisco, ordered some Greek food for delivery, and crashed, determined not to emerge until afternoon the next day.
It was a nice view of the Tenderloin, I remember, with white curtains and a bed that ate much of the room. The bathroom was streamlined and cheap, with a plastic shower enclosure and an intensely complicated shower head.
I got it intending to wander around the city for a week, and then completely failed to do so.
At that, though - I'd made it. I would be continuing on to Eastern Washington for my eventual settling in and continuing, but this was the peak of my trip. My goal of five years, to drive to the Bay, was achieved. Exhausted, but elated, I sat cross-legged on my bed, and logged in to check my work email.
Shortly after that, my personal cellphone rang. A database administrator demanded to know where I was - he needed a drive replaced in Virginia.
"I'm sorry," I laughed, "I don't work there anymore."